The German duo Zengineers specializes in the sort of lounge-ready downtempo that on first listen might be dismissed as mere shopping-mall background music. But there’s more than just louche mood-setting on its 16-cut ideology.de netlabel release, A Gesture of Irritation. The best tracks have a mix of sampled jazz, light-touch turntablism and found voices that bring to mind early Funki Porcini, DJ Cam and other stalwarts of the start of the Warp, Ninja Tune and Mo’ Wax labels.
Irritation opens strong, with the soundbite melodic bursts and surface-noise textures of “ni:esahp” (MP3) and the raspy groove of “Aspheric Focus” (MP3). Other strong entries include “Fast Asleep,” all heavily muted horns and deeply sublimated piano (MP3), and the gingerly dubby “Time Travel (forward)” (MP3).
Not every song on Irritation is great. “Heroine” and “Monster” suffer from vocals whose delivery just don’t match the quality of the instrumental parts, and “Into the Tomb” strives for an industrial rigor it can’t attain.
The otherwise highly recommended set is available in MP3 and OGG formats, and the website is in both German and, helpfully, English. More on the group at myspace.com/zengineers.